Evgeni Malkin spoke to the media on Sunday in a 7:52 second exchange. That’s a lengthy interview by his standards, and his focus was on display.
“I don’t want to be a guy who wins three Cups and stops playing, just be a nice guy,” Malkin said. “I want to be a good player, next five years, next six years. I want to try my best and try to dominate every game. I want to be like a leader should be, a top center in this league the next five, six years for sure.”
Malkin, 32, is advancing “aged” status for an elite hockey player, but he is coming off a 2017-18 season where his numbers in goals (42), assists (56) and points (98) were all personal bests since his 2011-12 campaign. Also, Geno’s 78 games were the highest they’ve been since 2008-09 - a year he won the scoring title and Conn Smythe trophy.
Malkin still has it in him - he scored 28 goals (in 42 games) from January 1 - end of regular season, the most in the league in the second half of the season. His 62 points in that time period only trailed Connor McDavid by one point for league’s best.
Big Gene mentioned with a longer summer he was able to take a bit of time off and started skating 3-4 times a week starting in mid-July. That has ramped up to almost every day over the past couple of of weeks.
“I feel so much better this year and I have more confidence right now, I feel unbelievable.”
It definitely feels like Malkin is “man on a mission” this season and is excited to get the season going. Much like Sidney Crosby, he’s a guy who has pretty much won everything individually and collectively that there is to win, yet there’s a noticeable hunger and drive this year.
“Sid [is an] unbelievable player...I look to him every day and he’s still hungry. He’s work[ing] hard every day. He’s our leadership and I’m trying to be the same. I’m trying to show my best level, I know I am [part of the] leadership and everyone look to me right now.”
Malkin declared himself “one thousand percent!” very dramatically at the end, his knee injury has fully healed and he seems primed and ready for another big season.
One major storyline (at least for bored Pittsburgh media types who needed something to kvetch about) was that Phil Kessel had the AUDACITY to not speak to the media at the end of the season. As if somehow that mattered in the big scheme of things. Anyways, Phil did speak briefly today and it was classic Phil Kessel stuff.
There's a little bit of Phil Kessel in all of us. pic.twitter.com/nqUd1H5pm6— Phrill Kessel (@PhrillKessel) September 16, 2018
Kessel was pretty much dismissive of everything, most notably on the topic of his relationship with coach Mike Sullivan. It was also a pretty media-driven topic this summer that tension between mercurial player and strict coach was apparent. Kessel wasn’t taking the bait, “I think some people make issues that aren’t there. It is what it is.”
When talk turned to his playoff struggles, he was again dismissive. “I don’t even remember. I probably had about a point a game right or something? So, it’s not that bad, is it?”
Kessel scored one goal and nine points in 12 playoff games. He didn’t look like himself when it came to handling the puck or shooting, though he was still effective distributing the puck on the power play.
Yet he wasn’t going to make much of an injury excuse still. “Everyone has injuries. I think every year, you’ve had an injury or two. Just whatever. You play.”
And then at just over three minutes, well under half the time the chatty Malkin indulged us with today, Kessel’s media session was over.
And I don’t know if it’s just from having short hair and no beard at the moment but is it just us or is Phil looking a bit lean right now? For a guy who gets a lot of heat for his personal appearance and some questions on commitment, Kessel himself looks like he’s in a good place to get back to business.